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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

34                              THE GAY GENIUS

dictator was thrown out of power and died of shame and frustration
did not prevent the rise of another puppet, Chang Pangchang, in the
twelfth century; and the fact that Chang was thrown out when he
had served his purpose did not prevent still another "patriot" in the
sixteenth century, Wu Sankuei, from leading his army, armed by a
foreign power, inside the Great Wall to crush the Chinese government.
The Northern Capital, therefore, was established at Tamingfu in
southern Hope!, guarding against the approach of a Mongol potentate
from the north.

The city was the metropolis of China, kept in imperial grandeur,
where the wealth and talent and beauty of the nation gathered about
the court. All around the city ran a moat a hundred feet wide, planted
on both banks with elms and willows, revealing the white parapeted
walls and vermilion gates behind. Four rivers flowed through the city,
running mainly east and west, the most important being the Pien River,
which carried all the river traffic and food supplies to the capital from
the south-east plains of Anhuei and Honan. Water gates on these
rivers were closed at night. Inside the city, the great avenues were
provided with guard posts every hundred yards. Painted and carved
wooden bridges spanned the rivers running through the city, while
the most important one in front of the palace was built of carved
marble, elaborately designed. The palace occupied the centre of the
city, beginning in the south with a long stretch of stone and brick wall
below the Shiianteh Tower, with an elaborate bas-relief of dragons
and phoenixes, while above showed the glittering roofs of the palaces,
made with glazed tiles of variegated colours. Around the palace on
four sides were the main streets, named by the four points of the com-
pass. On the west of the palace stood the premier's office, and the
office of the military privy council. In the southern outer city, outside
the Red Sparrow Gate, stood the national college and imperial temples.
The streets swarmed with pedestrians, officials' horse-carriages, bull-
carts, and sedan chairs, which were the general mode of travel, while
a few small two-wheeled carts were pulled by men—prototypes of the
modern rickshaw. The women in the bull-carts travelled with their
screens let down. It was the peculiarity of the imperial city that no
one was allowed to go about bare-headed, and' even the humblest
fortune-teller tried to dress like a scholar.

The time for the palace examinations came. Ouyang Shiu was
nominated by the emperor to be chief examiner, together with a
number of distinguished scholars as judges. The approach to this most
critical moment of a scholar's life was always filled with keen excite-
ment, tense hope, and a nervous fear of failure. It was the moment to
which all his years of grinding labour and hours of burning the mid-